Sunday, 20 March 2011

My Top 3 All-time Snooker matches - #3 Hendry Vs O'Sullivan in 1997

I'm a sporting anorak there's no getting around it. I'm a font of useless knowledge that usually only comes in handy at pub quizzes. But then, I enjoy the randomness of my knowledge because I'd like to think that it gives me the perspective to make observations such as the one below.

I'm a snooker fan and there have been some wonderful matches played over the years. So for my own enjoyment and for anyone out there who share's my passion for the green baize, I'm going to concoct my Top 3 Snooker matches of all-time.

In at Number 3...
Here we see the final of the 1997 Liverpool Victoria Charity Challenge Trophy Final.

The Charity Challenge Trophy (latterly the Champions Cup) was a non-ranking Snooker event that ran from 1995-2001. For its first 5 years between 1995-1999, it was a charity event in which the world's best snooker players were playing not for themselves, but for their own choosen charities. So in the run-of-the-mill world of snooker, this was not a 'normal' tournament. There was none of the tension of playing for yourself with career earnings available or ranking points to be won - this was just an old fashioned charity contest. But that in itself brought pressure - the pressure of wanting to win for your chosen charity.

But though it was for charity only, the contest attracted the best of the snooker world. In its 5 charitable years, the winners were Stephen Hendry (twice), John Higgins (twice) and Ronnie O' Sullivan (once).

Well, in the 3rd installment of this now defunct series in 1997, we saw possibly the best two players in the history of snooker slug it out - Stephen Hendry Vs Ronnie O' Sullivan. The former at the peak of his powers as the current, 5 times World Champion, against the up-and-coming raw talent that was the latter.

Watch the highlights of this incredible final below. As the young presenter Eamonn Holmes (indeed, Anthea Turner led the behind the scenes coverage!) stated, the final would go down in the annuls of snooker history.

Indeed, ex-pro Willie Thorne added: "I've been a professional for 20 years and this is the greatest final I've ever seen".

He went on to call it: "The greatest match that's ever been witnessed on television"

Hendry burst into a 6-2 first session lead in the best of 17 encounter. So he only needed three more frame to win and to earn his charity the National Playbus Association £100,000 in prize money. On the other hand, Ronnie O'Sullivan's charity the Dyslexia Institute, looked liked being the runners-up.

The second session continued ominously for O'Sullivan as Hendry won the first two frames of the session to lead 8-2. But O'Sullivan is made of stern stuff and he fought back...and back...and back. 6 frames on the bounce and he levelled the match at 8-8.

Now this had happened to Stephen Hendry before but in the reverse. In the 1991 Benson & Hedges Masters Invitational non-ranking final at Wembley, he fought back from 0-7 and 2-8 down to level at 8-8 against Mike Hallett. Hendry won the decider to complete an incredible comeback which in itself would make a Top 10 Snooker match run-down if I were ever to do one.

Well, here at 56 minutes, the boot was on the other foot. It was now Hendry who had seen a 6 frame lead evaporate in front of his eyes. The momentum was with O'Sullivan.

But this is Stephen Hendry we're talking about and what he did in that deciding frame has never before, or since been repeated in the history of snooker...

An incredible finale to an incredible final. The only ever maximum break 147 that has ever been recorded in a deciding frame of a snooker match. But not just a final frame maximum, but one made having lost the previous 6 frames.

As Rex Williams in the commentry box exclaimed as the frame progressed: "Well I thought miracles stopped happening 2,000 years ago but, this is just unbelievable stuff".

Jim Meadowcroft exclaimed at the end: "That is the gretest performance I've ever seen in me life".

Not just with the finale but with the 7 century breaks that were scored during the match by both men, it is without doubt one of the best matches of snooker ever played and deserved of it's place in my Top 3. But that means there are in my mind, 2 matches that surpass the one above.

Stay tuned to find out which ones...

PS The celebrity 'pounds-for-points' at 45 minutes was wonderful! Never did I think I'd see John McCririck and Tessa Sanderson play snooker!


  1. Yes i totally agree. There will never be a rivalry like hendry sullivan. Hendry changed the game of snooker by taking it to another level...

  2. hendry sullivan world semi-final 1999 is the greatest match ever seen...

  3. I agree hendry sullivan 1999 is the greatest snooker match ever seen. One of the greatest sporting rivalries of all time. Hendry raised the bar...the rest is history...